Artizenship: Part 2, To be there or not to be

Sep. 17, 2014 | Jeremy Benson

“Nothing ever happens in Napa.”
Do you hear people say this? I’ve heard the lament a number of times, from friends, acquaintances, strangers on the street. I wonder if it’s limited to my generation—a people returning home, or venturing away from it, in withdrawal from the social sustenance built-in to their modern college experience. Or is it a more invasive piece of Napa’s identity?—Wine. Food. No Fun.
I’m curious how long this rumor has pervaded, and how much longer we’ll let it.
The Happening
At least one thing happened in Napa, and it immediately required us all to become upstanding citizens. At 3:30 in the morning we jumped up and out and checked on our neighbors—people we may not have talked to in years, if ever. The next day we checked in with our favorite businesses. We grabbed brooms and gave time. We offered beds and hands, meals and hugs. We’ve been buying our favorite cabernetssoon we’ll be rocking to our favorite bands.
I hope these neighborly, supportive acts will long-outlast the aftershocks and sleepless nights we’ve all been feeling. These actions—checking in, spending locally, giving time—benefit our community every day, not just in the wake of a crisis. And similar actions benefit our creative community just the same.
The earthquake forced us to take stock. What did we lose. What remains. What, and who, is important. As thousands of us have been touring downtown, we’re finding places that we had forgotten about, and places we never knew existed. We’re finding people who are doing things, who have been doing them all along.
Shake It Up
We know from volcanos and LEGOs that destruction and creation are not mutually exclusive. The damage from the earthquake forced downtown businesses to create new ways to serve customers while waiting for inspections to clear. The Napa Valley Writers Club suggested its members write poems and stories about the earthquake. Look what Verve Napa Valley and the Grandhand Gallery are proposing to make out of the destruction
And I propose another bit of destructive-creation: let’s shake off this idea that nothing happens in Napa. The No Fun Ordinance wasn’t engineered to withstand a shudder of this magnitude. It’s been red-tagged, and we cannot retrieve anything from inside. 6.0 is no longer a Richter, it’s the newest upgrade.
And if you or I hear anyone else repeat such a lie, that nothing ever happens in Napa, let’s set them straight. There’s a lot happening here. One only needs to start looking. What’s more: because something isn’t yet happening doesn’t mean it can’t. 
Be There 
Look around you, and take note of all that is happening. Turn off your television, go outside and ask your neighbors if they’d like to walk downtown and take in a show, or read some poems in the park. Head to the galleries, the theaters, the bookstores and studios. Be there, and be here.
Coming in Part 3: Community as Creation

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Arts Council Napa Valley 501(c)3 is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.


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